Picturing the Enemy

An interesting article appeared in BBC today.  A young Chinese man has built a significant collection of “war memorabilia” from Japanese soldiers, who invaded and occupied China prior to and during WW II.  What interests him, however, are not the gruesome “collectible” photos of beheaded civilians or bombed out cities, but very ordinary photos, many carried by the soldiers, of family and self in non-war settings.  He’s made quite a study of his collection, noting the small details of human life.

1943, Soldier with Friends. [He was later killed.]

Besides his collector’s obsession, what is in his mind as he pours through possible purchases on e-bay or from collectors or antique stores?  Why these and not something else?

“I collect these albums not to remember hatred, but to avoid repeating the same pain,” he emphasised.

“They teach us a lesson: war is cruel and there is no winner.”

He adds a small voice to those trying to counter the narrative of the necessity of war and revenge, like super dried landscape ready to explode at the smallest spark.  And doubly good for him that he says this contemplating those who very likely affected his own forebears in terrible ways.